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House with Kaleidoscope Doors, 5

October 01, 2019 11:26AM

The House with Kaleidoscope Doors

Christina K, based on the amount of times I've watched the movie, I think HMC must be my favorite too, although Spirited Away is probably second.

Petra and Maria, I'm writing a paragraph on her old hat for the end notes. Tiln's fascination with her bonnet is due to the magic in it.

Chapter 5: Master Errol

The next morning, the master was still gone. Catherine sent Allen on an errand to bring back some honeys and sugars as she began to prepare syrups. At the hat shop, she was always giving assignments to the workers and it felt natural to do the same to the wizard's apprentice. Allen, used to being a gopher for his master, thought nothing of it.

She covered the stove with bubbling pots filled with various bouquets garnis infusing the water. The fire demon slipped away to another room to escape from the humid air as she worked and Allen likewise slipped away when he had returned from various shops in far-flung towns.

By noon, the liquid had condensed into syrups. Catherine bottled most of it and stored it in a cellar that Eleanor found. She climbed the stairs back to the main room and was just about to gather the pots to wash them when the front door swung open and a man who was not Master Tiln entered the home. A chill went through the room as the fire demon crouched low over the grate. Catherine yelped in surprise and Allen fumbled with the tea tray he had been preparing.

The man was older, well dressed, and clearly magical. Catherine immediately recognized him as the magician who had come to her hat shop and placed this hex on her. Instinctively she cowered and hid her face from him. Had he come to steal the last remaining moments of her life? Was he equally a threat to Eleanor and Allen? How had this evil man gained entry to Master Tiln's home?

“Allen!” the stranger barked without preamble. “Where is your master?”

Allen jumped to his feet before answering. “He's out, Master Errol. He left yesterday. He'll probably be home again in a few more days. Shall I tell him to return the call?”

The wizard raised his eyebrows at the tightly reined chaos of the main room. “You have been rather industrious in his absence,” he observed.

“Yes, sir.”

“And who are you?” the wizard asked Catherine with a sneer. “If you are the new housekeeper, Master Tiln is better off without.”

Catherine felt herself quaking with fear. Thus far, the man didn't recognize her. Her clothing had changed and the bonnet was still decorated with flowers that she had plucked the day before, but she needed to get away from him before he got a good look at her face.

“This is Granny Bonnet,” offered Allen in an eager tone. “She's... she's…”

“Surely the fire demon can put the charwoman in the laundry or a closet while I am here,” Master Errol said.

Catherine felt a wave of sick relief flood her to think that she could go. The laundry, the cellar, any place was preferable to where she stood. With weak, shuffling steps she walked to the nearest door and didn't raise her eyes until Eleanor had shut it safely behind her.

When at last she looked around, she momentarily thought that she was in the laundry, but it turned out to be a closet -- a very big, disorganized closet. Shelves ran around the perimeter, with boxes and hats piled on top. Below, clothing draped from hooks and rods. Boots and slippers were tossed haphazardly on the floor. A floor mirror in an ornate stand stood in the middle of the room and the only door was behind her.

She circled the space to orient herself and spied her precious hat resting high above her. As satisfying as it would be to reclaim her property, it would probably lead to trouble that she would rather avoid just now. She glanced about the narrow room, then whipped her gaze to the mirror so fast that she has a momentary headache. She was there in the reflection, but she was old Catherine, or rather, young Catherine.

She stepped closer, mesmerized by her appearance. The bonnet and dress looked out of place now but she had no attention for it when her face was unlined and her back was straight. She reached out a hand to touch the glass and recoiled when she realized her hand was still spotted and gnarled even though the reflection showed no sign of age.

This was a magic mirror, but how did it work? What was it showing her? Was this trying to show her that the hex was an illusion? Or was the mirror enchanted to show her what she wanted to see, regardless of what was true?

She stared at the mirror for a long time, but she was no more sure of what she saw. She would probably have to ask Master Tiln about it to get to the truth but didn't know how to do that without arousing suspicions.

Shaking herself free from the mirror's fascination, she moved away from it, circling the space and keeping her eyes averted.

"What is taking so long?" she muttered to herself, growing weary with being cooped up in the closet. There was no fireplace in the closet. No doubt it was meant to give the wizard his privacy, but it also meant that Catherine could not open the flue and eavesdrop on the visitor to find out if he was leaving yet. She told herself that she shouldn't be troubled. The cruel wizard would not stay long. Master Tiln was not present and therefore any visitors would have to call again later. As soon as he was gone, Eleanor would let her out. It was just a matter of waiting.

To pass the time while she waited for that arrogant windbag to blow away, she spied a wide-brimmed felt and snatched it from the shelf. A ridiculous orange feather entirely overwhelmed it and she plucked it off confidently. A hat like that would be a good hat for walking about. The brim would shield the wearer's eyes from the sun and the crown was deep enough to sit firmly on the head and not get blown off in the wind. The feather, however, was stupid beyond words. Orange, against that shade of grey? It was an offense to an artist like Catherine.

Without the feather the hat instantly looked better although it had only gone from ridiculous to plain.

Master Tiln, she knew, could transform into a hawk when he chose. She wondered if he had any hawk feathers lying around or if they disappeared when he transformed back into a man.

She checked the floor and found a small, dusty pile of feathers and lint. She selected a few and brushed them off, blowing away the dirt and arranging them in a fan. They would look rather handsome on the hat if only she had a needle and thread to sew them on, and a broach or ribbon to cover the quills. It would make an excellent traveling hat, much better than the foolish contraption he was wearing yesterday when he left the house.

Lacking interruptions, she found for a sewing kit and sewed the fan of feathers into position, pausing to check and admire her work as she went. Completed with that task, she wondered how she might find the materials to continue the project when the door popped open a few degrees. Catherine was too excited to return to the others to dawdle. She chucked the hat back on the shelf and shoved the leftover feathers in her apron, and sped out to join the others.

"Is he here?" she asked, before she was even back in the room, but Eleanor was back to her usual cheery blaze so the strange wizard must be gone. "Who was that odious man?" she added, feeling safe enough to speak honestly.

"That was Master Errol, a very great and powerful magician," said Master Tiln.

Catherine had not expected to see him back and she jumped in surprise to hear his voice. "What are you doing here?" she blurted out to him.

"Wards," he answered with a gesture that revealed a few feathers that had not yet disappeared. Catherine had remembered the ripple of the magical boundary when she had first crossed the threshold of this home. "Master Errol is not exactly welcome here. As soon as he arrived, I knew it. I came as quickly as I could, in case he wanted to cause something more nastier than his usual mischief."

"The old master only came to gloat about killing our mouse," huffed Allen. He had to spend the time in Master Errol's presence cowering, and was cranky for it.

"You don't know for certain that Master Errol has killed her," contributed the fire demon. "I don't think she's dead."

"Who died?" asked Catherine. That was the one part of the conversation she followed. Or it was the one part of the conversation that kept her from following the rest.

"No one died, Bonnet. They've just gone missing," said Eleanor.

"If she's not dead, then where is she?" countered Allen. "And why did Master Errol show up so smug? There's been no sign of her for nearly a week."

Catherine knew she was the mouse in question. But she also knew she was not ready to reveal that to anyone, especially if one wizard was trying to kidnap her and another was trying to kill her.

"If she's been dead for a week," she reasoned instead, "why did Master Errol wait until now to brag about it?" She didn't notice that Master Tiln seemed to perk up at her words. Instead, she muttered under her breath, "Although I cannot blame you for thinking the worst. I suppose a wizard must murder a large number of people throughout his career, not to mention all the hearts and livers he must eat."

There was a collective gasp and Catherine saw that everyone was gaping at her in shock.

"What did I say?" she asked weakly, already guessing the truth.

"Oh, Bonnet," said Eleanor, disappointment thick in her tone.

"You think we're a bunch of murderers?" Allen exclaimed. "We saved your life! Do murderers rescue people from mountainsides, or take old women to pick flowers?"

"Well, to be fair, you do think that Master Errol has killed someone," Catherine defended herself. "And you are trying to kidnap some poor girl."

Eleanor roared with laughter. "Kidnap her! Oh, Bonnet, where do you get such ideas? You're a magician yourself, have you ever eaten a human heart, or abducted someone?"

"I didn't know I was magical," Catherine defended herself. The idea did sound ludicrous with Eleanor laughing at her. "But it happens in gossip and it's in the books I read."

"I don't think gossip is meant to be taken seriously," said Master Tiln.

"But in the books, the wizard is always the villain. He's always trying to separate the young lovers, to steal their hearts," said Catherine.

Allen gave her a pitying look, sorry for her sake that her tremendous age had not brought her any wisdom. "Granny," he said in a voice that mortified her, "story books?"

"Well you must admit that some wizards are bad," she huffed. "What do you want with the missing girl anyway?"

"We are not trying to kidnap her, Bonnet," said the master. "We are trying to protect her from Master Errol."

"But who is she to Master Errol?" asked Catherine. "What has she done to him that he wants to kill her?" She had tried to throw him out of a hat shop, she admitted to herself, but that was hardly excuse for murder.

"It's not what she's done, it's what she's going to do," Allen said cryptically.

Catherine thought that was ridiculous. "How does anyone know what she's going to do?"

"Augur and prophecy," Allen said simply. "You'll learn about them soon enough, provided we can find her in time."

Catherine didn't doubt that Allen knew what he was talking about, but it made no sense to her. She shot a frustrated look to the master to beg for more details.

"Some magic takes time," explained Master Tiln. "My old master has been working for years on a special spell and now that he is less than a week away from having it come to fruition, this little mouse has appeared and threatens to upset his plans."

"But I, I thought she's just a mouse -- a girl," Catherine corrected herself. It was getting harder not to slip up that she was the girl in question. "You said she was a hedgewitch. How can she know how to thwart that evil wizard?"

"Did I say that?" mused the master. "The trick about hedgemagicians is that they can do magic whether they realize it or not. And I have seen her do magic, myself. Complicated magic, so she knows far more than she realizes."

"How is that even possible?" Catherine gaped at him. "What sort of magic did she do?"

"Ooh, yes," enthused Eleanor from her niche in the hearth. "Tell us the story. I want to hear it again."

Master Tiln looked momentarily conflicted. Now that Master Errol had been temporarily dealt with, he needed to get back to his search. But another quarter hour of rest might be best. Then he spied the collection of dirty pots and pans on the stove, and decided.

"Granny, if you'll make the tea, I can tell you about the mouse," he said.

Eleanor clapped in giddy expectation, sending sparks up the chimney and then lowered comfortably on her blackened bricks. Tiln claimed his usual seat. Allen settled himself on a stool near the fire; as the senior apprentice, he should probably have the second best seat, but he was raised to be courteous to anyone who looked as old as Catherine.

Catherine busied herself with the tea tray by the stove, warning everyone to keep quiet and wait for her. The last thing she wanted was to miss details of the wizard's story because she was too busy with the tea. A quick glance was followed by a longer one, but something was missing.

"Allen, did you move my syrups?" They had spent most of the day yesterday gathering flowers and herbs, and all of the morning boiling water and sugar. Master Errol had interrupted them, but perhaps Allen had moved the remaining bottles and jars to the cellar to keep them away from the unwanted guest.

There was no answer forthcoming so she turned to face them and repeated the question.

Allen slumped forward in something like defeat. "Master Tiln?" he wheedled.

The wizard sighed and stood up wearily. "Let's you and I check the cellar, Bonnet," he said before asking Eleanor to open the door.

"Did Allen put all of my syrups down here?" Catherine asked when they both reached the bottom of the stairs.

"I'm afraid that Master Errol noticed your syrups. He was rather impressed," Tiln told her.

Catherine grunted. "I can't imagine why. He doesn't look like a person who cares for any sweetness."

Tiln smiled at the observation and pulled one of the bottles off a shelf. "He took a sample of each, I'm afraid."

"He stole them!?" She regretted not making a poison to teach that thief a lesson.

"He wanted to study them," said Tiln. It was not exactly a denial. "When do you use this one?" He asked, offering the bottle to Catherine.

She unstoppered it then inhaled the soothing scents of chamomile and themory. "If the pressures of the workroom are too much and I can't stop thinking about problems, I sometimes put this in my tea before bed. It helps my mind to rest so my body can do the same."

"It's a calming draught," said Tiln, "with a little sleeping potion mixed in. What is this one for?" he picked up another bottle.

"That's for my morning tea," she explained, recognizing the thread that she had wrapped around the neck of the bottle. "I like a nice bracing cup at the start of the day. When the shop is very busy like for holidays, I offer it to the rest of the girls."

Tiln removed the cork, took a sniff of the liquid and exhaled. "It's a potion for fortitude and endurance. And this?" He pointed to another tied with a pink ribbon.

Catherine began to feel confused, like she was being congratulated for committing wonderful crimes. "That's what I drink when I can't come up with ideas for a new commission. I'll have a cup and go for a walk. I always see something inspiring and by the time I come home, I know exactly what I want to create."

"I believe that is a creative spark," Tiln corrected her gently. "Your syrups are all magical potions."

"That's silly," she scoffed. "I learned them from my father. Are you saying he was a hedgemagician too?"

As she said it, the idea went from laughable to plausible. Her father had attempted to teach his own recipes to all of his children, although Catherine was the only one who had a knack for it. He had also taught her about flowers and fabric, things not quite in line with her mother's rules for composition, but no one could find fault with the way customers gravitated toward the hats Catherine crafted using her father's odd ideas. And no one could compare to her either, because when any of her siblings or her mother's apprentices attempted to use the same materials, Catherine's results were patently superior. She always felt guilty for inheriting her father's talents as well as being poised to take over her mother's business; the revelation didn't make her feel any better about it.

"Oh, but that means you're not so hedge of a witch after all if you studied under someone," came a familiar but unexpected voice from the furnace in the corner.

Catherine jumped in surprise but she was gratified to see that the wizard did too. For a moment, she had forgotten all about Eleanor and Allen. She hadn't remembered that she was cursed into an unnatural old age, and she hadn't noticed before how close Tiln was standing to her. Even the despicable Master Errol had seemed to fade away for a bit. But it all came back at the fire demon's interruption and she inched away, feeling stooped and foolish.

Tiln likewise seemed to recollect that time was indeed passing. He grabbed the bottle of fortitude. "Let's go back up and have our tea. Then I must be off. I have a mouse to find."

This chapter is the part that I think best lines up with the September challenge, that perfect cup of tea for every problem. Of course, Catherine had no idea the real reason why her tea was always so effective until now. And, in a fit or poor timing, I didn't post it until October.

House with Kaleidoscope Doors, 5

NN SOctober 01, 2019 11:26AM

Re: House with Kaleidoscope Doors, 5

Lucy J.October 04, 2019 04:35AM

Re: House with Kaleidoscope Doors, 5

Maria VOctober 01, 2019 05:54PM

Re: House with Kaleidoscope Doors, 5

MarciOctober 01, 2019 04:43PM


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